Today’s New Hampshire Union Leader carried news of the death of Somersworth pastor Thomas Clark III. I hadn’t been in touch with the pastor for many years, but his death touches me as a loss. He left his community – indeed, all of New Hampshire – a better place. I will remember him as a member of the clergy who was unafraid to defend life, in a charitable and comprehensive way.
Pastor Clark spent many years at Tri-City Covenant Church in Somersworth, and he taught at Tri-City Christian Academy. He used to bring students to Concord to testify on life-issue bills. He came prepared to offer testimony himself, but he always wanted the students to speak first.
I recall 1997 and the passage of Senate Bill 34, repealing New Hampshire’s nineteenth-century abortion laws. It was the third go-round for such legislation. After being vetoed twice by Governor Judd Gregg, the third time was the charm. Governor Jeanne Shaheen was happy to sign the bill, knowing that no fresh legislation was being prepared to replace the old laws. Abortion was left wholly unregulated.
The bill didn’t pass without a fight. Pastor Clark was among the many people who opposed the bill. Here’s the testimony he gave to a state Senate committee on March 4, 1997.
I come in opposition to this bill. I represent the Tri-City Covenant Church and the Tri-City Christian Academy and more importantly, I am a representative of the Lord, Jesus Christ and His church. I would ask that you would judge that representation by my defense of this book [the Bible he carried] and not by the Reverend before my name – which today means almost nothing, as we heard earlier this afternoon.
I come as a pastor acknowledging the fact that I have a place to come and give advice to the civil magistrates. This foolishness that we are not allowed to have a voice and to come and give advice is a foolish way that our country has gone – that our state often goes.
I come to read a very simple scripture written by King David from Psalm 52. King David spoke these words in his day as we faced down a tyrant that had killed 85 priests and then gone into a town afterward and killed all the women and children of that town and all the animals of that town, and that man was promoted by King Saul. It was a position of great power. King David looked at that man and said to him, “Why boast thou thyself in mischief, oh mighty man?”
David spoke those words to a tyrant. This man held power, but he only held that power for a season – and he fell.
The civil magistrates of New Hampshire in our day have power. There’s no doubt about that. But I come here to address you and to let you know that you are accountable for how you use it and what you do with it.
I come here today to say very clearly that the proponents of abortion of today are the Nazis and Stalinists of our day. You have a responsibility as civil magistrates to stand against them. They have power for a season, and this legislation may pass. They may enjoy their power. They may celebrate the passing of this legislation.
But let’s be honest. What is their boast? What is their might? That they have the courage to pick on the most weak members of our society?
David looked at this man that had killed the 85 priests and women, and said “What is your boast? What is your might?” He then ended that particular verse with these words: “The goodness of God endures continually.” He was reminding this man who was a tyrant that that there was a power higher than him – a power that would eventually bring him down.
One of the NARAL supporters was here earlier, and they made a big deal that they had been fighting [for] this for 20 years. Well, as a member of the Christian church, I can stand here and say that we have been fighting this battle for 2000 years.
No matter what the legislature rules, we will not go away. We will defend the innocent. And Senator Wheeler and Senator Francoeur, you’ll not stand alone. There will be others to stand with you as they have before.
(The senators to whom he was referring were opponents of the bill. “Senator Wheeler” was Dave Wheeler, now a candidate for Executive Council district 5.)
Now there was a courageous pastor.
Last May, Pastor Clark was named Citizen of the Year in Somersworth. He gave decades to his church and its school. He served as chaplain to various community organizations. God bless him for all that. Even more, may God bless him for showing us all what it means to be Christian, clergy, and a citizen all at once.
Related post: The Story of Pastor Tom Clark (published just six days ago), by his friend Peter J. Leithart on firstthings.com